Thursday, 17 January 2008

Under-fire Conservatives step down in council financial row

THE leader and deputy leader of the minority Conservative group on West Somerset Council are quitting their political positions amid a row over the authority’s financial crisis.
The Conservatives lost control of the council in last May’s elections when Independent candidates backed by the Liberal Democrat-founded pressure group Direct won more seats.
Since then, Conservative leader Councillor Christine Lawrence (pictured, right) and her deputy Councillor Roger Webber (pictured, below) have been accused of allowing council finances to spiral out of control.
It resulted in both the council’s chief executive Tim Howes and deputy chief executive Rod Latham receiving huge pay-offs from the new Independent administration to leave their jobs, which plunged the authority further into the fiscal mire.
Council leader Councillor Keith Ross was forced also to abandon the much-vaunted New Horizons healthplex scheme in Minehead because there was no money in the kitty to fund the district’s share of the costs – even though work had already started.
New Horizons, which was a partnership with Somerset County Council, Somerset Primary Care Trust, and the West Somerset Community College, included a modern replacement for Minehead Hospital – and now the PCT has been unable to guarantee that it will still be delivered.
The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Simon Stokes (Labour) later called on Councillors Lawrence and Webber, who was the finance portfolio holder until May, to accept their share of responsibility for the crisis and to resign.
Now, former headmaster and chief executive Councillor Tim Taylor, who was elected in May to represent Crowcombe and Stogumber, is to succeed as Conservative group on February 1.
Both Councillors Lawrence and Webber will continue as district councillors.
Councillor Lawrence, who is also a Somerset county councillor for Dunster, said: “I have enjoyed serving the community and I am proud of the projects we were able to deliver during my term, especially the groundwork for the new hospital.”
She said she wanted to devote more time to resolving issues in her Minehead north ward and to her responsibilities as a county councillor.
Councillor Lawrence said she originally intended to hand over to somebody else after the council’s annual meeting ion May, but thought it sensible to allow a new team to be put in place beforehand.
Councillor Taylor said: “West Somerset owes them an enormous debt of gratitude and I am sure this will become more obvious over time.”

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Crash on remote Exmoor road leaves one person trapped

FIRE and rescue crews battled for nearly an hour to free a woman trapped in her car after a crash on an isolated stretch of road near Wimbleball Lake.
The incident happened near Leigh Barton Farm, Skilgate, and involved two vehicles.
Two fire and rescue crews attended from Dulverton and Bampton shortly after 10 am on Wednesday, January 16, and used clan lucas cutting equipment to free the casualty, who was then taken by ambulance to hospital.
A rescue tender from Taunton Fire Station was also called to the scene.

Jobless see £1 million a year spending to help them find work

A £3 million drive has been announced in West Somerset to turn around long-term unemployment and to help people access training and education to improve their job opportunities.
The Government funding will be spread over the next three years.
West Somerset Council’s economic development portfolio holder, Councillor Michael Downes, said: “This is a welcome investment in West Somerset and we will make sure the resources are targeted wisely to get the maximum benefit for local people and the local economy.
“While much of West Somerset may appear to be a Garden of Eden to visitors, we are pleased the Government has recognised there is deprivation in the area and has taken steps to help us address the issue.
“Many people perceive deprivation as a problem of troubled inner-city estates, but these are not a feature locally and our crime rate is among the lowest in the country.
“However, we do have pockets of deprivation across a wide geographical area which are linked to low income and unemployment.”
Sixty-six local, and 21 transitional, authorities will receive a share of the Government’s new £1.5 billion Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
Funding allocations are based in part on the most comprehensive mapping of prosperity and deprivation across England.
The recently published Indices of Multiple Deprivation 2007 show that 20 per cent of men and women living in the most deprived fifth of areas are not in work.
Tourism, while a major employer in West Somerset, is seasonal by nature and many jobs do not exceed the national minimum wage.
More than 26 per cent of people in West Somerset are employed in this sector, compared to a South West average of 9.4 per cent and a national average of 8.3 per cent.
Allied industries such as the hotel and restaurant trades, where work can also be part-time and seasonal, employ 38.3 per cent of local residents compared to a national average of 23.5 per cent.
Councillor Downes said: “We also suffer from poor transport links to motorways and we have tight planning controls to protect our area’s natural beauty which makes it harder to find suitable, accessible sites for industry.
“We will work with partners and the community to support self-employed people and small businesses who will be helped to grow and in turn employ more local people.
“We need to attract suitable new businesses where possible, and assist the long-term unemployed to access training and education to get back into work.”
Council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “This is good news for West Somerset.
“Any initiative that will help break the cycle of long-term unemployment and lack of economic growth is positive for all of us.
“It will help the local economy in the short-term, and build future prosperity so that the next generation will want to stay and work in West Somerset.
“The money will help us to develop a new approach to tackling the problem.
“We need to pull together as a community to deal with deprivation because it affects everybody.
“We are looking forward to working with local people and partners to meet the challenge.”

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Good recoveries by intensive care unit patients

PATIENTS who are treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, have been reassured they are more likely to recover than would be the case in many other parts of the country.
An independent national survey showed the department is delivering high quality care to the people of Somerset and was among the top three performing comparable units in the country.
Musgrove ICU patients had an 18 per cent better outcome overall than the statistics would predict.
The report acknowledged that the department was busy, with 500 admissions last year, and, compared with similar units, that patients admitted were older, sicker, and had a greater likelihood of their conditions being life threatening than anticipated.
Dr Bradley Browne, consultant anaesthetist and clinical lead for critical care medicine at Musgrove Park, said: “The report shows even with the higher needs of our patients, we are performing extremely well.
“This is a result of great teamwork, having staff with the right expertise, and professional attitude. The unit and staff are very proud of this achievement.”
ICU senior nurse Carolyn Panton said: “As a nursing team we are dedicated and focussed in our efforts to provide a very high standard of care for the patient and their families.
“We are also very lucky to have a superb group of support staff who help to keep the unit running efficiently.”
Last year, Margaret Lomax’s husband Michael was treated in Musgrove Park ICU but later died.
However, Margaret was full of praise for the care which she and her husband received.
She said: “The dedication of the team in ICU is astounding. The care that we received was superb and everybody was just so kind and caring. They were absolutely exceptional.”
  • Our photograph shows (left to right) Dr Steve Harris, senior Sister Carolyn Panton, Sister Felicity Miles, Dr Bradley Browne, and physiotherapist Sarah Burt with 'patient' Jane Frost. Photo submitted.

Monday, 14 January 2008

New homes go on show in picturesque Stogursey

SPECIALIST developer Strongvox has opened a show home and a view home in a picturesque rural development in West Somerset.
The development in Stogursey has been named Lonlay Meadow and comprises 59 two, three, and four-bedroom homes in detached, semi-detached and terrace styles.
The houses have been carefully designed to create attractive homes which complement similar properties in the ancient village.
The detached, four-bedroom show home features light wooden and painted furniture and stylish accessories to create the look and appeal of a traditional English cottage. Another property, a three-bedroom house, has been fitted out with all floor coverings and lighting and is available to see as a view home.
Sales adviser Francis Hedicker said: “The show and view homes are attracting considerable interest as they provide a tangible example of both the style and quality of the properties being built at this development.
“Lonlay Meadow benefits from its rural setting and its position within this attractive and friendly village.
“Many potential purchasers have been impressed with the development’s open layout and the inclusion, when completed, of a number of green spaces and play equipment.”
A variety of four-bedroom homes are available to purchase on the current release. These include the Taw, a three-storey, four-bedroom detached house which offers two family bathrooms plus a study and a garage.
Another house type, the Isla, includes a kitchen and breakfast area, plus a separate dining room, as well as a study and garage.
Prices for the four-bedroom properties start from £249,950.
Also for sale are a number of three-bedroom properties known as the Helford.
These are available as either a detached or semi-detached house with a ground floor cloakroom, an en-suite to the master bedroom, and a garage.
Prices start from £211,950.
Strongvox is committed to building high quality homes and, in keeping with the company’s ethos, each property is finished to a high specification.
Design touches include wooden double glazed windows, Porcelanosa ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, chrome plated taps, and kitchens by Moores Furniture Group.
For more information on Lonlay Meadow contact Francis Hedicker on 01278 734779, or visit the sales information centre, which is open Thursday to Monday from 10 am to 5 pm, or log on to

  • Our computer-generated images show (TOP) a Swift four-bedroom house which is being used as a show home, and (BELOW) a three-bedroom Helford which is a view home. Images submitted.

Cinema Obscura paying homage to live radio

LOCAL film society Cinema Obscura is timing the screening of its next show to coincide with eve of the first broadcast by Somerset’ s newest community radio station, 10Radio, in Wiveliscombe.
The station is due to start broadcasting on 105.3FM to Wiveliscombe and the surrounding area at 7 am on Monday, January 21.
The previous evening, on Sunday, January 20, Cinema Obscura will present director Robert Altman’s last film, A Prairie Home Companion (cert PG) – which is about the final performance of a long-running radio show after the network’s new owners decide to close it.
The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen, Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, and Kevin Kline.
Cinema Obscura, which has already put on a series of international films for eight seasons, is dedicated to bringing interesting, well-made, and visually stunning films to the Wiveliscombe area.
A Prairie Home Companion will be shown at the New Hall, Wiveliscombe Primary School, with doors open from 7 pm and the film starting at 7.30 pm.
Cinema Obscura membership is £12.50 (couples £22.50) with guest entry for this film is £4.50.
Full details of the new season of films is available from Eddie Gaines on 01984 624657 or Mark Reynolds on 01643 831080.
  • Our photograph is a still from the film A Prairie Home Companion.

Villages' motorists warned of Quantocks police blitz on thoughtless parking

POLICE in the Quantock Hills are warning people in Cannington and Nether Stowey to park considerately and legally, or face being given a fixed penalty notice.
The move comes after a series of complaints from residents and parish councils in both villages where parking has at times obstructed highways and been dangerous to pedestrians and other road users.
Despite talking to offenders and offering words of advice, the problems have persisted, so police officers and Police Community Support Officers have now been instructed to take action against those breaking the law.
PCSO Karen Evans, from the Bridgwater rural safer, stronger neighbourhood team, said: “The parking in both villages has been inconsiderate at best, at times dangerous and illegal.
“In the past we have tried our best to deal with these issues by finding owners of vehicles and giving words of advice, but following further complaints form local residents and parish councils we have been forced to take a tough stance.
“Unfortunately people seem to think that controlled areas of zebra crossings, bus stops, and loading bays can be used as their own personal parking space while popping into the shop for 10 minutes.
“This is not the case and, although it is not our wish to issue tickets, I would urge people to heed this warning or face the consequences.”

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Wiveliscombe radio station nears the big switch on

ORGANISERS of 10Radio have passed an important milestone with approval by Ofcom engineers to start test transmissions on the newly-allocated frequency 105.3FM for the Wiveliscombe area.
Although only broadcasting a test signal of music and voice messages about the new community radio station, the station has received a positive response from listeners.
The station also serves the surrounding nine parishes although reception is strong in and around the Wiveliscombe area.
It is now on schedule to start full-time broadcasting from 7 am on Monday, January 21.
The main studio in Croft Cottage, West Street, Wiveliscombe, has been converted by director Dave Meehan and a group of volunteers from the 10 parishes community, and other directors have been putting the finishing touches to the first schedule of programmes covering the opening three months of broadcasting.
The new community-led service will run full time 7 am to midnight on Friday to Sunday.
During the rest of the week there will be breakfast-style programmes from 7 am to 9 am with the remainder of the time featuring a representative selection of 10radio music and repeated output of the best bits from the weekend.
Director Eddie Gaines said: “We are very pleased with our radio signal and also how our presenter training, both youth and adult, has proceeded.
“We have a committed group of broadcasting trainers and presenters of all ages - all bursting with creative ideas for their programmes, great knowledge and passion for the local area, and, of course, tremendous knowledge of all kinds of music to suit everybody’s taste.
“10Radio will no doubt act as a central communication hub for Wiveliscombe and surrounding parishes which everybody will be proud of and able to benefit from.
“We will also be entertaining and, above all, fun to listen to.”
Help with building and equipping the station has come from Somerset Rural Renaissance Funding, Somerset Partnership Funding, and Kingsmead Community School.
However, as the station commences broadcasting, it anticipateslocal businesses and organisations will come forward to support the running of the station through sponsorship and limited advertising.
There is also a ‘Friends of 10Radio’ scheme to which the listening public can subscribe.
For more information about 10Radio and how to take part as a volunteer helper, presenter, friend, or business supporter, visit or contact Julian Mellor on 01984 623104 or Eddie Gaines on 01984 624657.
The 10 parishes covered by 10Radio are Wiveliscombe, Milverton, Ashbrittle,
Stawley, Bathealton, Fitzhead, Chipstable, Huish Champflower, Clatworthy, and Brompton Ralph.
  • Our photographs show (TOP) Members of the 10radio youth group in preparation for their 10Radio broadcasts, and (BELOW) Dave Meehan outside the Croft Cottage studio. Photos submitted.

Hospital spending £230,000 on MRSA deep cleaning

AN extra £230,000 is being spent by Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, to carry out a deep clean of all its clinical areas in the next few months.
Sixteen specially-recruited and trained cleaning staff will be involved in the deep cleaning programme.
The hit team will clean patient and public areas, store rooms, kitchens, sluices, corridors, and stairwells.
They will also de-clutter wards, remove old equipment, and clean storage areas on wards.
Head of facilities Simon Rigby said: “This additional investment has been provided by NHS South West as part of a national scheme announced by Gordon Brown recently.
“Our performance on healthcare associated infections at Musgrove Park is already very good, with rates of MRSA and CDiff more than halving in the last 12 months, but this extra money will allow us to do even more.
“There will inevitably be some disruption, but we are doing all we can to minimise any inconvenience to patients by carrying out the deep clean bay by bay, and doing a lot of the work in the evenings.”
  • Our photograph shows some members of the deep cleaning team (left to right) team leader Debbie Whiting, with Karl Hernan, Simon Blewett, Jamie Shirley, and Mark Farrow. Members of the team not available for the photocall were Alex Brown, Lou Walker, team leader Kevin Elliot, Anibal Da Silva, and Chris Farrand. Photo submitted.